Pierres Escrites & Etang de Diable from Valle de Gaube.

A wonderful walk to a hidden valley to search out rock carvings of ancient shepherds and the strange, ink black devil’s tarn.

This walk starts in the Valle de Gaube, just past the small hamlet of Esposouille, which can be accessed by car from Formigueres in the Capcir. From Esposouille, you can reach a parking place in the Gaube (GPS 31N 421748E 4721004N) by following a track along the valley bottom.

For “normal” cars it may be best to park after 2.5k at Les Bosigues but 4×4’s can get all the way to the end. An alternative is to take the track on the LH side of the valley.

For lovers of flowers and wild places so take your flower books! And expect to see Mouflon in the high valleys.

The Gaube valley tends to hold a lot of snow each winter and was the scene of a tragic accident some years ago when two policemen were avalanched so this is a walk that should only be done from June onwards and if done in that month, expect to have some snow underfoot at some point.This is a high mountain route so please make sure that you can navigate and take suitable equipment with you.

The walk
At the end of the track at 1650m, the road is blocked by a barrier and we start our walk, following the track past the barrier. For the first part, the track rises gently, always above the river and follows part of the multi-day Tour de Capcir walk.

Passing the shepherds hut at Jaca de Llosa we drop down slightly to the river before arriving at a junction after aprox 40 mins walking. This is a popular place for wild boar and often the ground is well turned over but the paths are well defined.

Ignore the path straight on as this leads into steeper more difficult ground that we will discover on a future walk.

The path to the left drops down to a bridge which is crossed and the slope beyond climbed steeply for about 400m to a levelling where you can take a breather and gaze at the rocky peaks and ridges of Baxouillard 2546m and Tribuna 2499m and the steep pass of Porteille D’Orlu where, a few years ago, bears from the Orlu valley came over to steal honey from hives at the top of the Gaube valley.

Needless to say, I know no-one who has seen a bear in this valley!

Pierres Escrites & Etang de Diable from Valle de Gaube.Cross the level ground and climb up again diagonally right across the slope in a westerly direction to where the slope eases again slightly.

The path continues climbing, now in a southerly direction crossing some small streams until you arrive at a small valley coming from your right. GPS 31N 418698E 4721576N 2100m.

Do not drop down to the stream but look for a small track going to the right, west.

The track is not way marked but follow it, climbing over a small knoll and then slightly left, for 600m, always above the stream until you come to a narrow valley through which the stream runs.

Follow this valley, at first on the right and then on the left until the valley opens out into a larger, clear area.

Follow the faint path on the left of the stream and within minutes you will reach a series of large, flat rock boulders. At first glance they look nothing, but on closer examination you can see names and dates of ancient shepherds carved on many of the boulders.

This makes a great lunch spot, especially if you have children with you as a competition to find the oldest carvings is great fun. Some of the oldest are said to date from the Neolithic period.

Having taken about 2 hours to reach the valley it is quite reasonable, after a nice lunch, to return by the same route but there are several options depending on your fitness.

The first one is to discover the Etang de Diable which is hidden about 400m walk and 100m climb, above and to the west of the carved rocks. There is no one good track to get to the tarn but I do recommend having a go as it is eerily spooky.

You do not see the tarn until you arrive at the rim and look down on it. It always looks black and seems to absorb any light and it is not surprising how it might have got its name.

From the etang it is possible to climb Pic Mortiers 2605m by following vague tracks SW up a broad crest until a large track goes right onto the ridge at 2510m at a metal carved sign marking the edge of the reserve D’Orlu.

As you reach the ridge, the most magnificent views over the Ariege and Andorra unfold before you but we turn left and follow the ridge to the summit. Each time I have made this climb there has always been a family of Mouflon on the LH slopes of Pic Mortiers.

From the summit it is possible to return by the same route but it is better to descend the SW ridge and turn L down to a shallow valley before point 2486m. This valley can be descended to the carved rocks or it is possible to continue W to join up with the way marked track at GPS 31N 418302E 4720537N taking you NE and back to your start point.

The total walking time for the carved rocks is 4 hours but add and extra hour for the devils tarn and a further 2 hours for Pic Mortiers.

For a 2 day trip, why not consider staying at the refuge de Camporells (tel Vivienne or Jean-Brice 0682129922) You only need to take a sheet sleeping bag and they will provide meals and drinks for you. Evenings at this refuge are convivial and perfect after the day trippers have gone home.

From the summit of Pic Mortiers the refuge is just an hour away. From the carved rocks, about 90 mins.


Stay safe…
When walking in a high mountain situation, any accident can have serious consequences so make sure that you are well equipped inclu- ding plenty of water, a map, compass, first aid kit and some sort of group shelter. Check the meteo before you leave (the local tourist office will have updated reports) and have the phone numbers of the mountain rescue service. Mountain rescue:
PGHM (Peloton de Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne) Osséja 04 68 04 51 03 (or ring 112 to be transferred)

Mike Rhodes is an International Mountain Leader / Accompagnateur de Montagne, lives all year in Les Angles and specialises in guided walks in the high mountains and Snowshoe trips in winter. He can be contacted on 0033(0)468043728 email: mike.rhodes@free.fr or visit his web site at www.pyrenean-trails.com

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